The Missing Quote

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Finding a title is, for me, one of the most difficult things about writing a book. Most of my novels have a name that I know will not make it to publication. All my books, to date, started out as something completely different that, as the novel progressed, or my editor/beta-readers gave their feedback I realised simply didn’t work. Then it was back to searching for an appropriate phrase that hooked potential readers.

Mostly this involved hours of brainstorming and searching through the text for that magical combination of words that no one would be able to resist.

As you know, from pervious blogs, “Shadows on the Grass” started as a full scale historical novel which I called “Daughters of the Eagle,” which I thought worked well as four of the main characters, Maria, Mimi, Hannah and Marianna had all lived through the tumultuous history of Poland in the late 19th to mid-20th century and the eagle referred to the Polish coat of arms.

With a shorter novel, much of which is set in sixties Bristol this did not work as well, so once again I had to re-think my original concept.

The phrase “Shadows on the Grass” was used in the early version by Marianna but deleted in the new version so I felt that if I wanted to use it, I would have to find another source.

A quick Google and I found,

“What is life? …It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot Warrior and Orator.

Since “Shadows on the Grass” does indeed deal with the impermanence of life, this was perfect.

Why then did it not find its way into the final version?

Well, this is where I have to admit to a total slip-up. When Peter Coleborn, who proof-read and formatted the book, asked for the prelims, I forgot to send the quote. When he asked me to check that everything was in order, I missed it.

So no one to blame but myself.

Lesson to self: be more careful next time. Though hopefully the lack of the quote has not taken away anyone’s enjoyment of the novel.

 

 

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Showering

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When someone asks me where my ideas come from, the question is so open-ended that I never know where to start. Do I talk about the sudden spark that comes from an overheard conversation, the image of a character that floats across my brain, the memory from childhood, or the “what if” that appears to arrive at random? What happens to these prompts is shaped by the conscious and the sub-conscious mind. Sometimes there is a deliberate choice to write to submit to an anthology, or to try out a genre I haven’t attempted before. On other occasions the arrival of a certain character demands that their story is told. Then again, a couple of lines of dialogue lead seamlessly into a longer piece.

It’s as if there is so much going on in my brain that I only have to reach out and snag something I want, or need to write about.

And the place where these stories come into my mind is often…the shower.

There is something about standing under a fall of water that sets the creative processes flowing.

Maybe, symbolically the brain is being washed clean and made ready. Or the shower is a place to relax, get the alpha waves working and unblock any impediments to the imagination.

Whatever the reasons, quite often I have to leap out of the shower and start writing.

Years ago an agent told me that many of her writers work in the same way. She was surprised by this finding, I am not.

All I wish is that someone would invent a waterproof notebook and pen, so that I could stand under a shower of blissfully hot water and write whatever comes into my head.

PS Why the waterfall? It’s much more beautiful that me in the shower.

 

 

Happy Mothering Sunday

Four Generations

Four generations of women in my family

It’s that day in the year when we are all supposed to think about our mothers, send cards and flowers and take them out to lunch.

In the beginning, however, this tradition was nothing to do with mothers but it was the day when people went back to their mother church, the church where they were baptised, or the local parish church, to celebrate Laetare Sunday.  Anyone who did this was said to have gone “a-mothering.”

In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, since on other days they were prevented by conflicting working hours, and servants were not given free days on other occasions.

The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place in the church or give to their mothers. Eventually, the religious tradition evolved into the Mothering Sunday secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers.

Lovely though it is to be given a special day the relationship between mothers and children is an on-going one that begins at birth and continues often beyond the end of life.  Whether our mothers are still alive of not their influence conscious and sub-conscious continues shaping our thoughts, emotions and behaviour.
It’s this link between mothers and daughters that is a constant theme in my writing. In “House of Shadows” Jo’s mother refuses to see herself in that role, preferring to be treated as an older sister and leaving the mothering to Jo’s Gran.

Picking Up The PiecesIn “Picking up the Pieces” independent, resourceful Liz encourages her daughter to go travelling, but misses Poppy dreadfully while she is away. While self-absorbed Elsa is enough of a mother not to want to trouble her son with her problems.

“Shadows on the Grass” follows the lives of a grandmother, mother, daughter and aunt showing how the care, or lack of it, can make a profound difference in the way a young woman sees herself and what she can expect of life.

Even in my latest work in progress, the children’s book “City of Secrets”, Letty Parker has an unconventional relationship both with her mamma and her step-mamma.

 

All about this months 6×6 writers and their books

This is always a great evening. I will enjoy reading from “Shadows on the Grass” and hopefully selling a few books too.

6x6 Writers Cafe

We are thrilled to have have no less than three books being promoted in the month’s 6×6! Bring your wallets because there will be books to buy!

In alphabetical order:

Misha Herwin: Shadows on the Grass. Publisher Penkhull Press

“Every family has its secrets. In the nineteen-sixties Bristol, seventeen-year-old Kate is torn between the new sexual freedom and her rigid Catholic upbringing. Mimi, her grandmother, is dying and in her final hours, her cousin, the Princess, keeps watch at her bedside and remembers their past, bound together by a terrible betrayal. And Mimi’s daughter Hannah struggles to keep the peace between her daughter and her husband whilst finding her own way through a post-war world in a foreign land where everything she once knew has been swept away.” (Available in Print and Kindle formats.)

Misha Herwin: is a writer of books and short stories for adults and children. Her latest…

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365-A Clear-Out

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If you’ve seen pictures of my office you will know that I am not a tidy person. My work space is not in total chaos but there are no clear surfaces and although I know, in theory, where everything is, that isn’t always true in practise, which means that I spend more time than I should searching for the elusive piece of paper/documentation/snippet of research.

I know I should do something to make my work space more efficient but the thought of a total overhaul is too daunting. Added to which we have recently had a kitchen makeover which entailed clearing everything out and then putting all our stuff back.

This time I was determined that only things that were useful, or lovely, or carried emotional resonance were to be allowed back into our lovely new room. Bit by bit I sorted through what we really needed or wanted and gradually came to the conclusion that for me the best way of doing a life laundry is in small, very small, chunks.

And so I made my great resolution.

Every day for the whole of this year I will throw out, re-cycle, pass on, sell one thing. It can be as small as a half-used scented candle, or as large as a coffee table but every day something will go.

To make sure that I keep my resolution I make a note every day of what has gone and so far this has proved very effective. So much so that I am currently ahead of myself. Not only are things going but the whole exercise is so liberating that I am finding it easier and easier to decide whether something stays or goes.

As I’m gaining more space I feel lighter and at the same time freer to concentrate on my writing. shadows-on-the-grass“Shadows on the Grass” is now out in paperback and I’m working on another novel and doing a final edit on the first of a series of books for children, when I’m not wondering what I can get rid of next.